Art director of Cairo International Film Festival resigns over controversial social media comments
Egyptian film critic Ahmed Shawky apologises for his comments and steps down from the 2020 event
Cairo International Film Festival’s art director has resigned after several calls for his removal due to past inflammatory posts on social media.
Earlier this month, Egyptian film critic Ahmed Shawky was appointed artistic director of this year’s festival, which is set to take place in November. He was acting art director at the 2019 event.
However, his appointment brought widespread criticism, with people highlighting past comments made by Shawky on social media, including him referring to the death of dozens of Egyptian football fans in a notorious riot as them being “culled."
His resignation was announced in a lengthy statement on Wednesday, June 10, with Shawky saying he did not want to “imperil their [the festival’s] image,” while contending that he has been targeted by a “smear campaign accusing me of violence, sexism and homophobia.”
He conceded that he did write “occasionally inappropriate posts" in 2013 and 2014 that were “directed towards a specific group of bigots and extremists.” He said he “never meant to offend anyone.”
Shawky added that security authorities advised him to leave his home in Cairo and go to another “secret place” as they feared for his safety after threats.
The festival's organisers said in a statement that they would continue preparing for the 2020 event and would “uphold principles of championing diversity, bridging cultures, encouraging dialogue, celebrating new voices.”
The resignation comes after activists threatened to write to foreign filmmakers invited to the festival to inform them of his history.
Among the most controversial statements by Shawky were posts about a 2012 football riot that left more than 70 people dead. In a 2014 post, he referred to the deaths of the football fans as them being “culled." Almost all of those killed were from The Al-Ahly club’s “Ultras” – hardcore supporters of the Cairo-based team and the country’s largest fan association.
After the recent backlash on social media, Shawky apologised for his “hurtful words” that were "painful to the families of the dead.” He has since made his social media accounts private.
The Cairo International Film Festival has opened submissions for its 42nd event, scheduled to run from Thursday to Saturday, November 19 to 28 this year.
The festival, held under the leadership of film producer Mohamed Hefzy, will run with health and safety measures in place, guided by the Egyptian government and the World Health Organisation.
“The coronavirus pandemic has imposed a considerable challenge to the international film industry," said Hefzy, the festival's president, in a statement. "Nevertheless, Ciff's management is committed to holding a successful and safe edition if the situation allows, while putting high emphasis on the safety and well-being of its staff as well as local and international guests."
Updated: June 11, 2020 11:50 AM